Plain objects find potency in the paintings of Nick Lowe, now at Grice Bench in DTLA

on Sep4

Nick Lowe makes paintings that make you want to look at them longer. At Grice Bench in downtown Los Angeles, each of his still lifes, street scenes and abstractions holds your eyes so long that you wonder about what you want from art: pleasure or knowledge, escape or engagement, truth or fiction?

All of the above, Lowe’s seven paintings suggest, but with second thoughts, second looks, even second opinions. Lowe smuggles enough doubt into his seemingly simple compositions to prompt private conversations with yourself (and then maybe with others).

“Spraypaint in Landscape,” “Pink Noise for Sleeping” and “October or November” look like doodles that could be anything. You can read loads of associations — art historical and emotional — into Lowe’s abstract meanderings, but you never feel as if you’re on firm footing.

Nick Lowe, “Spraypaint in Landscape,” 2017, acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 25-1/2 by  33-1/4 inches,
Nick Lowe, “Spraypaint in Landscape,” 2017, acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 25-1/2 by 33-1/4 inches, (Josh White / Grice Bench)
Nick Lowe's “Cactus and Tire,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 70.5 inches by 79.5 inches.
Nick Lowe’s “Cactus and Tire,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 70.5 inches by 79.5 inches. (Joshua White / Grice Bench)

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His two largest works, “Cactus and Tire” and “Dog in Landscape,” bring that elusiveness down to earth — without nailing it down. Traffic lights, street lamps, a stray dog and a stray cactus form settings for stories that are ambiguous — a matter of each viewer’s proclivities.

Lowe’s two still lifes condense such conundrums into pointblank pictures of objects so common that it’s easy to overlook their painterly potency and evocative wallop.

From one perspective, the three cherries in “Three Black Cherries” are ripe, plump and luscious. From another, they are flat, colorless and dead.

Nick Lowe's “Three Black Cherries,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 38.5 inches by 50 inches.
Nick Lowe’s “Three Black Cherries,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on linen, 38.5 inches by 50 inches. (Joshua White / Grice Bench)
Nick Lowe, “Various Possible Scrapers,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 39.5 inches by 50.75 inches.
Nick Lowe, “Various Possible Scrapers,” 2017. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 39.5 inches by 50.75 inches. (Joshua White / Grice Bench)

Similarly, in “Various Possible Scrapers,” the five workshop tools commonly used to scrape away mistakes are so beautiful in their own right that it would be foolish to use them for anything.

In all of Lowe’s paintings, things are just what they are — but never only that.

Grice Bench, 915 Mateo St., No. 210, L.A. Through Sept. 17; closed Sundays and Mondays. (213) 488-1805, www.gricebench.com

Lowe's “Dog in Landscape,” full frame.
Lowe’s “Dog in Landscape,” full frame. (Joshua White / Grice Bench)

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